HOMETOWN HERO: Brooklyn, New York
What is HomeTown Hero? A regular feature of Modern Jazz Today, focusing on the humans of the globe out there keeping the jazz flame burning, they may not be a household name, or even a musician.
They might be your local shopkeeper who plays jazz while customers shop, or a mother who takes her kids to jazz lessons once a week. Jazz is a lifestyle, and we want to focus on the people keeping jazz alive in their communities. This week we will be focusing on Martin McQuade, who is a Bay Ridge resident. Martin McQuade is considered an “expert in all facets of Bing Crosby’s career.” He served as a production assistant for both CDs, Among My Souvenirs: More Treasures from the Crosby Archive and New Tricks: 60th Anniversary Deluxe Edition, and also wrote the liner notes for the latter record.
Article by Susan Frances
American Standards from the Golden Age of Hollywood were celebrated at Circles Commune in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn as hometown crooner Martin McQuade performed a selection of popular tunes from the 1920’s and ’30s. McQuade delighted his audience with a repertoire that consisted of novelty numbers written by the Gershwin brothers, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, and others of their era. Demonstrating that a generation who defined the sublime with melodic smoothness and elegant vocalese has not lost its luster.
Accompanied by pianist Freddie Singer, McQuade plunged into the main theme of his show with Johnny Mercer and Richard Whiting’s iconic ditty “Hooray for Hollywood.” In his baritone timbres, McQuade captures the allure that swept across the country, spurred by Hollywood’s film industry. What evolved during this time was music that complemented the industry’s Dream Factory persona.
McQuade taps into the era’s dreamy vibrations with such tunes as “Let’s Fall in Love” and “Our Love Is Here to Stay,” the latter written by Ira Gershwin and his brother, Brooklyn-born George Gershwin. Through the 1920’s and ’30s, swing jazz melodies from the Gershwin’s were popular tunage, played on mainstream radio stations. However, modern pop tunes today sound so far from these origins. A torchbearer of vintage swing, McQuade shows a steadfast reverence and a crooner’s charisma in his rendition of the Gershwin’s music.
There are moments in the show when McQuade rises above the melody. Instinctually, he ventures into an a cappella delivery like in the bedtime lullaby “When You Wish Upon a Star,” proving that he does not need the safety net of an accompaniment to carry a tune. The graceful stride and subtle nuances of his vocals are reminiscent of his predecessors, driven by a contemporary lilt.[/forqy-container]Other times, Freddie Singer plays a piano solo that displays the mirth and buoyancy found in the music of Hollywood’s Gilded Age of films. The nonchalant swagger of his keys strewn along “They Can’t Take that Away from Me,” originally from Fred Astaire’s movie Shall We Dance, portrays the era’s unwavering gaiety. So too do the reflective musings of his solo in “The Way You Look Tonight” the theme song from another Fred Astaire film Swing Time. His solos are tempered by McQuade’s ability to inject a level of emotion into the narratives that enable them to touch a nerve in the audience.
Song after song, McQuade exhibits the casual stride of Bing Crosby combined with the limber timing of Michael Feinstein and the dreamy smoothness of Johnny Mathis. In a time when the sublime means something different from its origins, Martin McQuade remembers a Brooklyn when swing jazz defined the sublime. He does not just reminisce about the era. He soaks his audience its revelry. McQuade is our hometown hero feature this week, keeping the swing tradition alive and bringing new audiences to its doorstep. Performing tunes that have stood the test of time and delighting listeners with classic 20s and 30s mainstays. Keeping the jazz flame burning brightly.
About Susan Frances:
Born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in eastern Long Island, I always enjoyed writing and made several contributions to my high school literary magazine, The Lion’s Pen. Influenced by writers of epic novels including Colleen McCullough and James Clavell, I gravitated to creative writing. After graduating from New York University with a BA in Liberal Arts, I tried my hand at conventional jobs but always returned to creative writing. Since 1998, I have been a freelance writer and have over three thousand articles to various e-zines including: Jazz Times, Blogcritics, Yahoo Voices, Goodreads.com, Authors and Books (books.wiseto.com), TheReadingRoom.com, Amazon.com, Epinions.com, Fictiondb.com, LibraryThing.com, BTS emag, BarnesandNoble.com, RomanticHistoricalReviews.com, AReCafe.com, Hybrid Magazine, and BookDepository.com. In 2013 and 2014, I was a judge in the Orange Rose Writing Competition sponsored by the Orange County chapter of the Romance Writers of America located in Brea, California.